Roma (2018), written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, is a social film, akin to a social novel, but one set circa 1970.
Roma is a Mexico City neighborhood where a nanny, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), and the family she works for live. Cleo is a hard-working if imperfect employee, and doesn’t deserve to be hotly scolded by her otherwise nice employer, Sofia (Marina de Tavira). Both ladies, however, have wretched problems, for by and by the driven men in their lives forsake them. . . Life here is full of free-floating vicissitudes and disasters, and we are shown that even an incomplete family is still a family, an indispensable entity.
Commendably photographed by Cuaron, Roma is a post-censorship, black and white art film reminiscent of something by De Sica or Olmi. The heavy avoidance of closeups, even so, causes the film to be less precise and effective than Umberto D. or Il Posto. And, further, Cuaron (Gravity) is not the greatest of storytellers. Again in a movie there is a scene—in the streets—of politically motivated protest and massacre. Cleo’s boyfriend proves to be a two-dimensional villain, nothing more. This is second-rate material, but don’t worry. Greater imagination and honesty are available elsewhere in Roma. To me it is an absorbing non-commercial work, by a poet of modest but real power. And as the critics have said, it is moving. (In Spanish with English subtitles, and it is currently streaming on Netflix.)